Boys will be Boys By Betty Mermelstein
My sons were born in the late 1970’s. By then we were all well entrenched in the most recent movement of equal rights for women. Men were discovering it was okay to cry. We all were beginning to self-help our way into a belief that men and women were supposed to feel the same way and act the same way all of the time. I was okay; you were okay.
My older son, at the age of two, dispelled most of this unisex philosophy rather quickly.
Having saved a lot of my old toys, I remembered that I had one that Sam would probably love to play with. It was something I had enjoyed for a few years with my Barbie doll: the 1960, peach colored, chrome bumpered convertible. She had made several road trips around the carpet in it, and it was still in great condition. I was happy to pass on one of my toys to my son.
“Here, Sam,” I announced proudly. “This was my car when I was little. It has a steering wheel and bumpers just like a real car. You can play with it now.”
I left him alone to make his own memories with the convertible and came back into his room a half-hour later.
I gasped when I saw the vehicle marooned in the middle of the room. Sam was busy taking apart a battery operated train in the corner.
“Where did the windshield go?” I whimpered.
“Winsheel go!” Sam shouted as he yanked off a train wheel.
I picked up the car and examined it more closely.
“And the bumper, Sam?” I moaned.
“Bumper dare,” he said swinging his hand toward the area by his toy box. I looked over to see the chrome bumper that was now forced into the hand of a He-Man character that the warrior brandished like a sword.
Then detecting a rattle coming from the car as I turned it over, I gingerly placed one hand inside the car. That’s when I noticed the steering wheel was missing.
My hand came in contact with a few large Lego blocks that had been shoved up under the hood area and that had also been generously coated with graham cracker.
Clearing out the mushy plastic pieces, I called Sam over to the car.
Mustering all of the good parenting I could between clenched teeth, I showed Sam how I expected the car to be played with.
“Look,” I pointed out, scooping up a nearby teddy bear beanbag. “Teddy sits in the car like this and we give him a ride around the room.”
I began Teddy’s tour with a fake RRRRRRR sound.
“Teddy’s proud, or at least he was, of his car and he doesn’t want to wreck it. He even finds end parking spaces so people won’t bang their doors into him.”
Sam laughed delightedly at Teddy flopped over onto the dashboard. He toddled over, picked Teddy up, and made him soar through the air in an arc that a performer at Cirque de Soleil would have been proud of. Sam grabbed the car and began pushing it from behind around his room with pursed lips that issued forth an actual car engine sound. He sounded like a car. It had to be a genetic male ability. I had never heard any of my girlfriends make that noise when I was growing up.
As he banged the car heavily into the toy box, I turned to leave his room. A parent should know when not to fight the discovery of free play of a two-year old boy.
After that, my expectations were tempered. I realized I was going to be the female role model for my sons, my husband the male role model, and whatever predisposed information that floated around in their genes would take over on a daily basis. It has helped me through years of reminding them to write thank-you notes, replacing mysteriously missing screwdrivers, and handing out praise for their work modifying the used family cars.
Recently, I sent my three-year old niece a foot tall dinosaur that roared and blinked its eyes, because she was really fascinated by dinosaurs. My sister told me my niece decided she was going to take on the role of being the dinosaur’s mommy because it didn’t have one. I snickered to myself, followed by a chuckle, and then an outright HA! I knew where the head of that dinosaur would have been if my son had gotten a hold of it at her age! He would have taken on the role of its WWF opponent!
Since the demise of my Barbie doll car, I also became more realistic about the fate of my own toys. My dolls that I played with have remained carefully packed away. They’re waiting for a possible granddaughter.
Betty Mermelstein has written and published various works, including poems, humorous personal narratives, fiction, and nonfiction articles. Find her books Jib And Spinnaker: Sailors Of The Low Seas, A School Year Of Caring, A Spirited Inheritance and Seven For Reflection on Amazon.